Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Mark L. McLaughlin, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jianfeng Cai, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James W. Leahy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David L. Morse, Ph.D.


Peptide Ligands, Radiopharmaceuticals, Imaging Probes, Targeted Alpha-particle Therapy, Immunoconjugates, Checkpoint Inhibitors


Cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the developed world. While much has been learned about these diseases in the last few decades, one of the main barriers to widespread advancement is the heterogeneity of cancer biology. A growing body of evidence supports the idea that certain protein receptors are overexpressed on the surface of tumor cells as compared to normal tissues. These extracellular biomarkers provide a unique opportunity to selectively target the tumor with both imaging and therapeutic modalities. The research in this dissertation focuses on targeting proteins on the tumor cell surface with peptidomimetic ligands.

Following a description of various extracellular receptors, chapter one discusses targeting ligands designed to specifically and selectively bind these receptors. It reviews recent literature on targeted alpha-particle therapy and ends with an explanation of the advantages of peptide ligands. Three distinct approaches to imaging and therapeutic modalities are then discussed in subsequent chapters. First, a peptide ligand was designed to target radionuclides to malignant melanoma cells in an effort to develop companion radiotherapeutics and diagnostic imaging agents. The second research project describes the synthesis of a novel antagonist peptide ligand with conjugated near infrared dye, and its utility for real-time intraoperative guidance during pancreatic adenocarcinoma resection. Finally, the last chapter describes how the relatively new field of immunomodulatory effectors may be enhanced by their derivatization with peptide targeting ligands.